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FAN ZONE 03/06/2022




WHO’S IT FOR YOU? GRIMSBY OR SOLIHULL FOR EFL PROMOTION?

NEXT SEASON’S NATIONAL LEAGUE FULL OF EX-LEAGUE CLUBS SO TIME FOR LEAGUE 3?


With the eliminators over in mid-week and the two semi-finals played over the weekend, we now know the two teams battling it out in the National League Play-Off Final this Sunday at the London Stadium, home of West Ham and famously the scene for the 2012 Olympics. Step forward Grimsby Town and Solihull Moors. But is this the right ground for fans of these two teams to access, and on Jubilee Sunday?

The pricing too is excessive, between £40 and £45 with no concessions, compare this with £26 for the League 2 play-off final at Wembley. No wonder the league’s sponsors, Vanarama, have stepped in with a donation of £20,000 for each side’s supporters to help subsidise costs.

The two semi-finals produced thirteen goals, nine of which were at the Racecourse ground where Grimsby won a thriller 5-4 with ironically their winner, in the final minutes of extra time, scored from a long throw-in, just to show what Wrexham use as a weapon, Grimsby could do better.

Town boss Paul Hurst is no stranger to the National League having taken Grimsby up into the EFL in 2016 so, can he do it again? They certainly must be favourites but underdogs Solihull, who have never been a football league team, have a switched on manager in Neal Ardley; oh how Notts County may wish they hadn’t sacked him.

It promises to be a tantalising finale to the 2021-22 season and there are likely to be many willing Solihull to succeed.

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Next season the National League is back to its full quota of twenty-four teams, fourteen of which are former football league sides strengthening the argument for three up, three down between it and League 2. Several months ago the league’s General Manager, Mark Ives, told this column that there were talks between the two leagues to discuss such a topic, so we should be told how these discussions are progressing.

One of the most impressive facts of this season has been the attendance figures with many higher than crowds in Leagues 1&2. Notts County had over 12,000 for their eliminator, nearly 10,000 for Wrexham’s semi-final while Solihull created a new record on Sunday.

These crowd numbers add weight to the clamour for more automatic promotion places.

With the likely implementation of the Fan-Led Review on the horizon, with a Government White Paper out in the summer, new initiatives for football’s future could herald all kinds of changes to how football is governed and whether it’s more places for EFL status from the National League or turn it into League 3 remains an option that isn’t going to go away.

What does seem certain is the introduction of an independent football regulator whose first task will be to channel more of the Premier League’s money into lower league clubs, there’s talk of taking up to 25% of its broadcast revenues - and potentially 10 per cent of top flight transfer fees.

EFL chairman Rick Parry said, “The EFL would support the introduction of an independent statutory-backed regulator, if it provided the means by which we can deliver a reset of the game’s finances.”

Not everyone in football is happy with the idea of a regulator while others are urging the Government to set up a proper timetable as, at the moment, plans are rather vague. As the Football Supporters’ Association says, “Each day drafting White Papers is another day when a club might cease to exist. Another day for a dodgy owner to get their hooks into a club. Another day for remote billionaires to try to create European Super League 2.0. The FSA urges the Government to move fast and legislate now.”

Nadine Dorries, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said, “We will introduce reforms to corporate governance to mitigate the financial mismanagement of recent years and support fans having a veto over any changes involving vital parts of their club’s heritage and identity - like stadium, colours and badge. We are also working on plans to give fans a greater role in the day-to-day running of clubs.”

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With the National League AGM coming soon there should be plenty there on the agenda for clubs to discuss especially final decisions on whether to introduce a salary cap. Will the big spending from certain clubs this last campaign be knocked on the head?

Stockport and one other may well have left but potentially big clubs in York, Oldham and Scunthorpe are joining the likes of Wrexham and Chesterfield who both made mouthwatering signings last season.

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Having asked last week about pre-season friendlies, being used as a marketing ploy for ticket sales, the club has announced three matches against EFL opposition which should provide a sterner test than last year’s hastily put together fare. Matches at Plainmoor against Newport County, Plymouth Argyle and Exeter City ought to give Johnson’s new look squad decent workouts. And prices for entry are pretty competitive as adults can gain entry for £10 (£8 concessions) but season ticket holders get in for half-price. With pre-season training drawing closer, the new 2022-23 season kicks off on August 6, a few proven National League or above players putting pen to paper would be welcome; maybe Mrs Johnson has been providing some of her famous afternoon tea parties to help persuade players to sign! *********

Whilst both Notts County and FC Halifax gave it their best shots to return to the EFL at least their respective managers, Ian Burchnall and Pete Wild, have done with Burchnall taking over at Forest Green Rovers and Wild at Barrow.

Will Wrexham stick with Phil Parkinson and Chesterfield with Paul Cook?

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Congratulations to the Torquay United Development team becoming champions of the Devon Women’s League Western Division after a 2-1 win over Teignmouth. Women’s football at Torquay has never been higher, well done to all those involved.

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Keep the goals - posts and crossbars - as they are now but what to do about pitch invasions caused greater interest with the majority believing clubs failing to control their fans should be punished by playing future fixtures behind closed doors. The number to be decided depending on the severity of the incident.

This week, which team would you like to see win Sunday’s final, Grimsby or Solihull? Send your choice to: fanszone.tu@gmail.com or Twitter: @FanszoneT

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